As part of its strategic engagement with stakeholders, the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone on Thursday April 24 facilitated the release of the remaining four detained soldiers held at Pademba road prison.
The facilitation came about after the Commission engaged the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Frank Kargbo on various human rights issues ranging from prison overcrowding, health of prisoners,
and the remaining four soldiers not charged before the court martial.
The Commission believed that continued detention of the four soldiers without trial was a violation of their rights and therefore sought their release, if they were not going to be charged.
The Attorney-General who said he was unaware that the four were not charged, sought clarification from the Chief of Defence Staff and to make necessary steps for their release if they were not going to be charged.
Preparations were underway between the AG’s office and the Defence Ministry to release the soldiers from custody.
On November 15th, 2013, the Human Rights Commission visited the Pademba Road Prison to do a check list inventory of the actual situation that obtained there.
The Commission noted that 18 military officers were being held at the prison without charges brought against them for allegedly committing an offence.
The military officers were detained by the state since August 2013, without trial. This action by the government clearly violates section 23. (1) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone Which states that “Whenever any person is charged with a criminal offence, he shall unless the charge is withdrawn, be afforded a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent Court’. The Commission strongly believes that this provision of the 1991 Constitution was never adhered to.
The Commission wrote a letter to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice on February 6th 2014 highlighting the continued detention of the 18 soldiers without trial since August, 2013. It was also stated in that letter that the Commission observed that the military officers were denied visits and also they cannot access their bank accounts.
On February 24th, 2014 the Commission did a follow up visit to the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. Commissioner Jamestina King raised the issue with the AG of the continued detention in Pademba road prisons of the 18 soldiers. She also said in November of last year, the Commission did a monitoring report on Pademba road prisons. She said it was on that report that HRCSL had gone there to engage him on the continued detention of the 18 soldiers.
Tuesday April 29, 2014